Wednesday 21 December
The Crown Prosecution Service has decided to charge John Terry with a racially aggravated public order offence. A CPS spokes-pillock said: “I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute this case.” Err, which presumably they were not last week when they asked for more evidence and plod came up with a new tape. What is meant by ‘in the public interest’ is that they’d like to switch attention away from their day job, namely, looking the other way on phone-hacking. Come to think of it they only had 11,000 pages of evidence and 5,000 phone numbers in the News of the World case and decided that no action should be taken. The Terry case is far more complicated; there are literally many hundreds of seconds of footage from a football match to watch, from more than one angle. No wonder it took them two months to make up their minds.
A bit of good news among the seasonal gloom – the football special is being revived. The train will take blues fans from Paddington to Swansea and home again for £40. Subject of course to more than a handful booking. The match is on Tuesday 31 January. Should be a quiet and well ordered journey. Shame, in a way then, ‘cos we’d already booked the helicopter.
Thursday 22 December
Tottenham Hotspur 1:1 Chelsea
A draw leaves us both gazing up the table but it couldn’t have been a more entertaining game. Ramires was back in and straight out as the booking he picked up tonight means he is banned for Boxing Day and will just have to stay at home with his family.
A ragged start is becoming the norm as Chelsea try to implement the managers latest plan. Defend deep and hang on for the first twenty minutes appeared to be the master plan tonight. Gareth Bale had recovered from whatever knock they were pretending would keep him out and sadly with no Luiz we continued with Bosingwa at right-back. Imagine, if you can, that the flying Welshman got the better of the lumbering Portuguese. It was Bale’s cross that evaded the covering Terry and Cech’s late dive – more and more fumbles from the big Czech – and Adebayor tucked it in. 1-0.
Daniel Sturridge had a chance for instant equality but fired over as Friedel fumbled. The pace of the Tottenham side was carving holes all over the defence – Ivanovic was booked for bundling over, as we looked frail and on the back foot.
So frail did we look that when Ashley Cole wriggled away form Van Der Vaart – yes, the ball hit his arm; yes, the referee waved play-on – Spurs seemed unaware of the treat. Cole’s cross was side footed in by Sturridge for his ninth of the season. 1-1.
Meireles had a shot saved before Didier smashed one off the crossbar as we decided to assert ourselves.
The plans had to be ripped up when Ivanovic limped off with a hamstring problem. Given that Alex has been training with the academy the only option on the bench was Ferreira, Bosingwa stepped inside as we prepared to take on one of our title rivals with three full-backs in defence.
Somehow though it worked. We managed to hang on until half-time mostly by kicking Gareth Bale up in the air.
We started the second-half like a train. Cole beating Kyle Walker to find Drogba and his cross must be finished by Sturridge – only, the young Brum headed wide.
Drogba then feeds Ramires who is one-on-one with Friedel and contrives to bungle it. From the corner Terry smashes in a header by Friedel is there again. Spurs couldn’t get the ball but we couldn’t get it into the net. Mata fluffed one wide after Ramires’ run before Sturridge blasted one that Friedel needed two attempts to snaffle. Tottenham couldn’t get in the game and Adebayor should have been booked a second and perhaps third time as the home side showed its frustration.
The real criminal on the night though was Ramires who standing on his own managed to head wide instead of in from six-yards.
Then right at the death as Adebayor shoots John Terry slides in the block the ball away with his back. To the relief of Petr Cech who is looking more and more a spectator as the weeks go on. Good to think that we have such strength in depth in the goalkeeping department with, erm, Ross Turnbull and, um, er, the other one, Hilario.
Friday 23 December
Sam Walker has been recalled from picking the ball out of the net at Northampton Town. No reason was given on the web for the termination of the loan that was supposed to last the season.
Meanwhile Bolton Wanderers have confirmed that the clubs are in negotiations over Gary Cahill’s transfer as the dreaded window opens next week and all back page reporting slides off into a trance of transfer fever.
Monday 26 December
Chelsea 1:1 Fulham
Due to the festive season we have redacted all the swearing in this match report it will therefore be shorter than usual.
Shortly after this shower of a performance Andre Villas-Boas formerly gave up any hope of the title. We could have told him that a few weeks ago but we felt it fair to allow the young man his enjoyment of beating Man City before pointing out that subsequently shovelling six point in three draws was hardly the stuff of champions.
With all the transport problems it was a miracle that everybody made it to the ground but half will go home wondering why they bothered. Fulham had been taken to bits 0-5 at home by Manchester United in their last game but we couldn’t get out of first gear.
There were some positives Romeu continues to impress and Raul Meireles played well. But Torres and Lampard looked off the pace and lacking form or confidence.
Fernando had one moment when he controlled on his chest and volleyed but the chance was blocked and that was all we got from him.
Top marks to the comedian who allowed us to compare the form of the past with Torres wretched present – it’s Christmas give us time and we’ll work in a ghost of form to come – it was good to see Jimmy Greaves at half-time just after the megabucks Spaniard left the field having contributed little, again.
Our goal was a stroke of luck. Just after the break as Torres’ control failed the ball fell to Mata who hooked in. 1-0.
Any hope that we might press on and actually make an impression on the gap to the top were scotched by the usual sickening equaliser. Earlier than normal at 56-minutes our defence literally melted away to allow Brian Ruiz to turn inside and outside Ashley Cole to provide a cross for Dempsey to steal in unmarked. 1-1
The defensive frailty has been there from the start of the season. We have been defending AVB against everyone who would tell us he is too young. We defended him when he said he would never change his tactics; when we were left with our pants round our ankles by Arsenal; when we shipped equalisers to Genk, Valencia; conceded late goals to Leverkusen, Liverpool, Wigan and now Fulham. Nobody would mind if the team’s performances appeared to be showing promise, if the tactics seemed to be gelling, especially with the promise shown by Mata, Sturridge and Romeu. But things have not changed. A deeper defence against Man City hasn’t changed into a more solid unit. David Luiz might well, as AVB claims, develop into the best defender in the world, but he is taking a long route. Jose Bosingwa has personally been responsible for so many goals against this season it is getting to be a joke. And, yet, it is Alex who is ostracised and on his way out in January. The club should stick by AVB but the calamitous state of our defence needs to be addressed. You cannot refashion a successful team if you leave the backdoor permanently on the latch.
Late chances rolled in as the Chelsea boys realised where they were, but Stockdale was equal to them all. The curious decision to replace Daniel Sturridge with Drogba, with Torres ending up playing on the right beggared belief. A poor afternoon indeed.